HIV testing bill passes Utah Legislature

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A bill which would require alleged sex offenders to be tested for HIV was sent to the governor for his signature after it passed through both the House and Senate with very little debate.

The bill would allow victims of sexual assault to request that their alleged attackers be tested for HIV before a conviction is made. The bill is designed to help a victim of sexual assault know whether he or she has been exposed to the HIV virus, said the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Richard Greenwood, R-Roy. It would allow the victim an opportunity to choose whether or not to begin taken drugs to stop the virus. These drugs can sometimes have adverse side effects such as nausea and fatigue.

However, the ACLU of Utah strongly opposes the bill based on constitutional issues. The bill would invade someone’s privacy and not only disclose that information to the police, but also to the public, said Marina Lowe, with the Legislative and Policy Council with the ACLU of Utah.

The bill also could also have some unintended consequences if the wrong person is accused and a full trial is unable to be conducted, Lowe said.

“Just because a victim of sexual assault thinks a defendant is guilty, doesn’t actually mean that person is,” Lowe said. “If someone tests negative, and is later found to be innocent. The victim could have chosen to not take the medication while the real perpetrator is positive. This scenario could result in the unnecessary infection of a victim.”

Also, many health officials have expressed concern because anti-body HIV tests are not always accurate. There is a six-month window period between the time someone is exposed to the virus and when it will appear on a test, said Nicholas Rupp, the public information specialist for the Salt Lake Valley Health Department.

Even if an attacker tests negative for the virus, there is still a possibility that the victim was exposed and should begin medical treatments right away, he said.

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